The Trials and Tribulations of Leadership

By: Cierra Kaler-Jones

Inevitably, we all aspire to change the world. Leadership appears to be the perfectly paved road to achieve this large scale goal. Leadership is often glorified, looks prestigious on paper, and appears glamorous from the surface of outsiders peering in. In reality, there are scars underneath the visage of glamour. Leadership requires an endless amount of trial and error. You often have to learn the value of trusting your own instincts and celebrating your own strides towards a goal, even when they’re not ideal in everyone else’s eyes. Leadership takes guts. It takes a special ability to be resilient in the face of conflict.

Last year after interning at the national non-profit organization, She’s the First, I immediately knew I wanted to start a campus chapter at Rutgers to raise money for girl’s education in developing nations so they could be the first in their families to graduate from secondary school. It seemed daunting, a little scary, but I felt such a deep connection to the issue that I convinced myself that I could garner up the support from my fellow peers and this idea could take off.

With no baseline, I had to start from scratch. I had no idea where to even begin in starting a new organization and the answers I sought after were not cut and dry or readily available. I had to fill out what seemed like repetitious pages of information, often to have them returned to be revised and revisited. I ran all around campus trying to construct the right team to head this organization, find an advisor who was as equally enthusiastic as I was, and recruit members. All of these tasks, in addition to many restless nights planning the structure of meetings and events, consumed me.

At our first fundraising event last semester, we had minimal attendance. Some would regard that as a complete failure on our part, but as the night came to a close, I had a revelation that it wasn’t. Our Social Media Manager came up to me to tell me that after screening a short clip of the documentary Girl Rising, those in attendance revisited the sign-in table to empty their pockets and wallets in support of the cause. Just because we didn’t reach our fundraising or attendance goal after all the work we put in, didn’t mean we weren’t making an impact. To those who came, it was an eye-opening experience to indulge in a new topic and see the issue of universal girls’ education through a novel lens.

As a leader, you have a clear cut set-out vision of exactly how you want something to look, and when it doesn’t happen, you feel like a failure. You often look at numbers and quantitatively how many lives you’ve affected. It’s not about the numbers, as they are no clear cut way to measure impact. This is the beauty that lies within the depths of true leadership. When you reflect in retrospect, the tireless work and effort can teach lifelong lessons. Changing the world starts with changing the mindset of just one person.

I’m changing the world one person at a time, What R U waiting for? 

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unnamed[3]Cierra Kaler-Jones is a junior studying Social Work with minors in Critical & Comparative Race & Ethnic Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies, and Criminology. She currently serves as the Founding Co-President of She’s the First*{Rutgers}, Co-Chair of the Recruitment Committee for the Institute for Women’s Leadership, is a member of the nationally ranked Rutgers University Dance Team, and is the Head Chairwoman of the Douglass Orientation Committee.  Her dedication to education, coupled with her duties as a local titleholder in the Miss America Scholarship Organization, drove her to start The Arts Empowerment Project, an organization that uses visual and performing arts as a strategy to empower economically disadvantaged adolescent girls.

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